Dear Democratic voter, if you had the 2016 Democratic primary to do over again, knowing what we know today, I hope you’d vote for Bernie. And you’d do so because in hindsight, it’s clear that he likely would have beaten Trump. He generated excitement, and his message for change was in line with what many want. While we can’t go back to 2016, we can try to be logical about our decision in 2020. I’d like to attempt to dispel the perceptions driving voters away from Bernie Sanders.

Perception: Joe Biden is the safe candidate.

This begs the question – what makes a candidate “safe”? Presumably, their electability makes them safe. My worry is that many are defining “electability” as being establishment moderate. In other words, establishment moderate = electable/safe. Let’s remember that Hillary was an establishment moderate. Aside from the historic nature of her campaign as the first woman to receive the nomination, her campaign and platform were forgettable. Joe Biden, known for public gaffes, bland debating and awkwardly touching women in public, is this cycle’s “safe” candidate. If we look back to the success of Barack Obama, we see someone who was inspiring, fostered a grassroots movement, and had a message that was more than “I’m not the Republican candidate; vote for me.” He was also a true underdog and not the establishment moderate. He won the presidency not because he was the “safe” candidate. He won because he was genuine, inspiring, and because he wanted change as badly as everyone who voted for him. In an era of political polarization, choosing a moderate candidate might be the single most unsafe thing to do. While candidates like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden might be attractive to some because they won’t rock the boat, they’re also unlikely to rock the vote.

Perception: Young people like Bernie, and young people don’t vote.

I’ve heard it said that young people drive Bernie’s popularity, and because young people don’t vote, Bernie is a less electable candidate. As it turns out, young people also liked Barack. According to a CBS News article from November 2008, 52-53 percent of eligible 18-29-year-olds cast a vote in the 2008 election. Young people do vote… when they have a candidate they’re excited about. In the 2016 election, the percentage of eligible voters in the 18-29 demographic dipped to 50 percent. Is the 2-3 ppercent significant? In a group of voters that numbered roughly 47 million at the time, 2-3 percent would have represented roughly another million voters from a segment that leans heavily Democrat. Would more young people have shown up to support Bernie in 2016 than Hillary? We’ll never know. Which candidate is more likely to drive out this segment of voters and win their support – Joe or Bernie?

Perception: The socialist label makes Bernie unelectable.

We’ve had this discussion enough by now. Socialism is taxpayer dollars being spread to benefit all of society. You might immediately think of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But socialism might also refer to public schools, infrastructure like roads and water pipes, and even other services such as police and fire departments and public libraries. Socialism is essentially the sharing of prosperity, as opposed to privatization, where people with private wealth have the best schools, roads, police, and health care.

Bernie has a clear and honest message for changes that we almost universally agree need to be pursued – affordable health care for all, Green New Deal, social justice, improving education and expanding access, free pre-K childcare, wealth equality, and encouraging more democratic workplaces, among many others. It is a socialist platform, and Bernie genuinely believes in it. It will ask that the wealthy pay their fair share so our country can take care of itself. And rather than wholeheartedly support a platform that aligns with our hopes and that seeks to meet the challenges of our day, it appears as though we’d rather run from it, as if our vision for a better future is something to hide from the rest of the country.

Perception: Joe Biden has the best chance at stealing votes from Trump.

I LITERALLY have yet to hear a story about ONE person who voted for Trump in 2016 who is now admitting, “I’m not sure how I feel about Donald Trump. I might vote for someone else.” I’m not saying these people don’t exist, but it must be a miniscule percentage of the population. Will we choose Joe Biden so that we can appeal to this tiny segment of the country, and risk alienating millions of other voters, voters like me, who feel too great a sense of urgency to go with the moderate candidate again? This is why young people don’t vote. Are we going to water down our platform to pander to voters who are very unlikely to vote for a Democrat anyway? If this is a numbers game, and you’re risking turning off millions of voters so you can appeal to thousands, it seems like a losing tactic.

Consider voting for Bernie, who may very well be the safer candidate to win in November.

Michael Rinaldi-Eichenberg of Athens is a long-time resident of Athens County.
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